Kalkin (meaning "eternity" or "time"; also rendered as Kalki or Kalika) is the tenth and final Avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. According to Hinduism, Kalkin's arrival on earth will mark the end the current epoch, the Kali Yuga, the fourth and final stage in the history of the universe. The origins of the name probably lie in the word Kalka which refers to "dirt," "filth" or "foulness" and hence denotes the idea that Kalkin is the "Destroyer of the Foulness and Ignorance" that characterizes the Kali Yuga. Kalki is also referred to as "the white horse," and is commonly depicted as a scimitar-wielding Vishnu mounted upon such an animal. In Hindi, kal ki avatar means "tomorrow's avatar."
Scholars have noted a striking similarity between the eschatological imagery associated with the Hindu avatar Kalkin and the apocalyptic return of Jesus depicted in the Book of Revelation. It is possible that, historically, Hindu descriptions of a future savior figure had an influence on Christian views of the apocalypse, or vice-versa. It is also possible that the source of revelation and inspiration that informs spiritual seers and visionaries is One. "Kalki" is also an important term in the Buddhist tradition of Kalachakra, where it is related to many prophesied enlightened rulers.
Myth and Depiction
In Sanskrit, avatara means "descent" of God into physical form. The term is most ubiquitously related to Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of life in the Hindu trinity. Vishnu is commonly said to have had ten incarnations, or dasavatara: 1) Matsya, a fish; 2) Kurma, a turtle; 3) Varaha, a boar; 4) Narasingha, a lion-man; 5) Vamana, a dwarf; 6) Parasu Rama, Rama with an axe; 7) Rama, a noble man; 8) Krishna, the teacher of the Bhagavadgita; 9) Buddha, a spiritually enlightened being; and finally 10) Kalkin, the final avatar. Kalkin is the only one of the avatars who has not yet arrived, and thus his appearance on earth is highly anticipated by Vaishnavites, followers of Vishnu, as well as Hindus as a whole.
The popular image of the Kalkin Avatar is that of a rider upon a white horse, which some sources name as Devadatta (God-given). The horse itself is interpreted as symbolizing strength, while its color white represents the power of unity, as white unifies all colours in the spectrum. Commonly, the horse is described as having wings. Kalki himself will be one with the divine, and is also mysteriously described as being a "yantra-manava," or a machine-man. He brandishes a flaming comet-like sword, which is sometimes interpreted as a symbol for "discernment," or Wisdom, in that it slices away the bonds of lies and foulness, and liberates souls by sharpening their awareness of truth and beauty.
Due to Kalkin's pending arrival, he is naturally the most mysterious of the avatars. As is the case with the prophecies of many traditions, there are diverse beliefs and depictions within Hinduism as to when, how, where and why Kalkin will appear. Most common accounts declare Kalkin will arrive on earth intent on eradicating the reign of evil. His first action will be to vanquish the demon Kali (not to be confused with the Hindu Goddess Kali), who has taken the earth under his control, thereby freeing its citizens from moral and spiritual devolution. Kalkin will then reconcile all opposites, and renew the processes of the Dharma (Paths of Virtue) and Creation. Ultimately, he will establishing a reign of righteousness upon the earth, ushering in a golden age of peace and harmony, and thereby setting in motion the next cycle of the universe.
Origins of the Kalki prophecy
One of the earliest mentions of Kalkin is found in the Vishnu Purana, which is thought to have originated around the seventh century C.E.. Here, the Kali age is described in detail, as a time when all virtue has departed the world. This is due mostly to the invasion of India by barbarian outsiders, or Mleccha. In this time period, women, children, and cows will be slaughtered with regularity, people will live for the accumulation of materials above everything else, and intimate relationships will degrade to loveless objectification, among other attrocities. The Vishnu Purana explains the latter days of the earth:
When the practices taught by the Vedas and the institutes of law shall nearly have ceased, and the close of the Kali age shall be nigh, a portion of that divine being who exists of his own spiritual nature in the character of Brahma, and who is the beginning and the end, and who comprehends all things shall descend upon earth: he will be born as Kalki in the family of an eminent Brahmin of Shambala village (...) By his irresistible might he will destroy all the Mlecchas and theives, and all whose minds are devoted to iniquity. He will then reestablish righteousness upon earth (Vishnu Purana, IV: 24).
Kalki is also mentioned in the the Agni Purana, which draw upon the Vishnu Purana to describe the futuristic earth where ignorance will abound before Kalkin returns, with men marrying outside their caste, the eschewal of Vedic sacrifices, and again, the barbarian occupation of India. A later work, the Kalki Purana, provides further exposition of the expectations and predictions of when, where, and why Kalkin will come. Here, Kalkin successfully battles the demon Kali as well and his minions, the twin brothers Koka and Vikoka, thereby liberating the world from their clutches. This work celebrates the defeat of traditions that are deemed heretical for not adhering closely enough to the traditions of the Vedas, such as Buddhism and Jainism.
Kalkin In Buddhism
In the Buddhist Kalachakra tradition the legend of Kalkin has a greater association with the Buddha avatar. This avatar is generally called Kalaki, or Kulika, and he is the ruler of the mythical Kingdom of Shambhala, where the whole of society is enlightened and the Kalachakra (a complex system involving the control of bodily energies which is claimed by some masters to be the highest form of Vajrayana practice), is widely undertaken. Followers of Tibetan Buddhism have preserved the Kalachakra Tantra, and initiation rites based upon it are a prominent part of the Tibetan traditions. In the Kalachakra Tantra Kalki is declared to be a title or name given to at least 25 future rulers of Shambhala. The aims and actions of some of these rulers are prophesied in portions of the work and some identify the twenty-fifth Kalki as the Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the future who brings about world-wide enlightenment. It has been theorized that the Kalki Purana may have been written as a Hindu response to these Buddhist prophecies contained within the Kalachakra Tantra.
Drawing on both symbolic and metaphoric interpretations of Hindu and Buddhist views of Kalkin, there have arisen some fascinating new interpretations of the Kalki legends which do not necessarily apply the designation "Kalkin" to a particular person. In such interpretations "Kalki" is seen primarily as an archetypal symbol of spiritual repose and vigor which can be manifest in any individual. Kalkin is often thought of as a "beautiful life essence," impelling people to follow diverse and harmonious paths of virtue, rather than complying with the paths of destruction and narrow-minded presumption. To those who embrace this view, the term Kalkin can refer to an attitude or quality of awareness manifest in enlightened people, who perceive beyond the illusions of the physical world (or "maya").
In such interpretations, everyone who is enlightened enough to follow the ways of ultimate honesty and ultimate love can be declared to be an honorable manifestation of Vishnu in his form as Kalki, the destroyer of foulness. However, no one person can be declared to be the ultimate manifestation of God, or the ultimate teacher for all people. For anyone to think that their own way is the only way for all (and that all others must be scorned, shunned, and vilified) is itself one of the most dangerous confusions that afflicts the spiritually weak. Any person who is wisely charitable, "riding the white horses" of fate's flow, and wielding the deceit destroying "sword" of honesty can become a "Kalkin." That is, they destroy foulness within themselves first and foremost, so that they may more ably assist others in destroying the capacities for evil. In doing so, one can end the metaphorical Kali Yuga within themselves, no matter how long it may persist in others, and a Satya Yuga of wisdom begins within their life, enabling them to help others to find their own unique paths towards enlightenment, and into their own ranges of contentment. Therefore, the quality of "Kalkin" is one of openess and tolerance.
Some Theosophists and New Age practicioners have declared the Kalki prophecies and those of the Maitreya Buddha, might actually refer to the same individual. Similarly, some writers have drawn parallels between Jesus, portrayed in the Book of Revelation, and Kalkin, due to their striking similary in description.
The bleakness of the Kalki Purana has lead some to link Kalkin with themes of violence and tragedy. Some believe the Kalki prophecies, among others, referred to Adolf Hitler, due in part to Hitler's fascination with Aryan myth and mysticism. Author Gore Vidal, used the Kalkin name and typology for the character of a millenarian religious leader in his 1978 novel entitled Kalki. This novel provides a depressing satire on modern society and human motivations, exploring the consequences of complacency and delusion, deceitfulness, and jealousy (1978).
In the last two centuries, several leaders of new religious movements have claimed to be Kalkin, or else have been declared so by their followers. For example, Sri Kalki Bhagavan who is the leader of the Golden Age Foundation, also called the Oneness movement, is considered by some to be the Kalki Avatar. Meher Baba, a guru of Persian descent, also stated that he was Kalkin. American guru Adi Da, founder of the Adidam religious movement, has claimed to be the Kalki Avatar, briefly changing his name to "Da Kalki" from 1990 to 1991. Cosmologist Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet contends that Sri Aurobindo, Indian nationalist and guru, was the ninth of the Hindu Line of Ten, and that he was reborn as Kalki, the tenth. Some adherents of the Bahá'í Faith have suggested that the prophecies of the Puranas refer to their prophet Bahá'u'lláh. However, none these claims have received support or recognition in mainstream Hinduism.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Embree, Ainslee T. (ed.). The Hindu Tradition. New York: Vintage Books, 1966. ISBN 0394717023
- Friedrichs, Kurt. "Brahma." in The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion. edited by Schumacher, S., and Gert Woerner. 43. Boston: Shambhala, 1994. ISBN 087773433X
- Knappert, J. Indian Mythology. London: Diamond Books, 1995. ISBN 0261666541
- Moor, Edward. The Hindu Pantheon. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 2000. ISBN 8177550292
- Wilson, H.H. Vishnu Purana Calcutta: Punthi Pustak, 1961.
All links retrieved October 4, 2022.
- Kalki Avatar
- Religious Policies of the 25 Kalki rulers
- Kalki Temple in Jaipur
- The Kalki Purana
- Messianic Themes in traditions of Northwest India
- The History of the Kalachakra Tantra
- The Archives of Alexander Berzin - Kalachakra Section
- Perspective on Kalki
New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:
The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:
Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.